THE STORY SO FAR
Mark is traveling to Winnipeg on Hwy. 17. He checks the forecast and it looks bad, so he chains up long before the snow. After driving a while Mark is wondering if the snow will ever come, but it does eventually hit and when it does, it’s a monster.
After a while on the road, Mark comes across a driver stuck in the snow. Apparently, he has chains, but doesn’t know how to install them. Mark helps the man out and shows him how to install his chains.
Mark stops to help another driver install his snow chains, but the chains are the wrong size. Instead, he uses a cable to pull the stalled truck out of the snow and then tells the driver he’s on his own.
The farther along Hwy. 17 Mark drove, the more vehicles he came across parked on the shoulder. After a while he was passing so many cars and trucks it was impossible to help them all. As he came up on another rig pulled over onto the side of the road, Mark rolled down the passenger-side window and waited for the stopped driver to notice him.
“You alright?” Mark asked.
“Yeah,” the man said. “I’m going to wait it out. At least till the plows come through. I should be okay after that.”
“Alright,” Mark said, rolling up his window. “Take care.”
Further along, there was another truck off to the side. This one seemed to be spinning his wheels in the snow, but as Mark passed, the driver gave him a wave as if nothing at all was wrong. Obviously, Mark needed some help deciding just who out on this road needed his help. And so, he called Bud to ask him a question.
“Hello?” Bud said.
“Bud, this is Mark. And before you ask, it’s Marksicle Dalton driving the snow-swept Hwy. 17 in Northern Ontario, right around the corner from the Arctic Circle.”
“Hwy. 17 isn’t anywhere near the Arctic,” Bud said.
Mark took a look out his window. “You could fool me with the way the snow’s blowing across the highway.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Yeah, that bad. I’ve had my chains on for hours and I’ve already helped a bunch of other drivers put theirs on. Even pulled a driver out of the snow whose chains were the wrong size for his rig.”
“You’re a real hero,” Bud said, the sarcasm in his voice almost dripping out of the phone.
“Knock it off!”
After a moment of silence on the line, Bud asked, “Why are you calling me for, anyway? You’ve got another day before you have to deliver that load. I’ve got nothing for you right now.”
“I’m calling to ask if you’ve got any of your drivers on Hwy. 17 at the moment. There are so many drivers spinning their wheels here I don’t know which ones to help. If any of them are your drivers that would make it easier for me to decide.”
“Let me check,” Bud said.
Mark waited on the line as he drove past a rig that was parked to the side with its hazard lights flashing.
“Okay,” Bud said. “I’ve got the list right in front of me.”
“How many?” Mark wanted to know.
“Yeah, including me.”
Mark let that sink in for a moment, then said, “Are you kidding me? Of all the drivers working for you I’m the only one in this storm? Where are the rest of them?”
Bud took a moment to respond. “They’re all in the U.S. right now.”
“Minnesota? Oregon? Maine?”
“No, more like Florida, Texas, and California.”
“If you’ve got so many loads in the southern states right now, why am I the lucky one driving through Northern Ontario on his way to Manitoba?”
“I give my drivers what they can handle,” Bud said.
Mark knew it was a compliment, but he wasn’t exactly flattered. He’d been driving for Bud for years now and he’d proven himself to be reliable and professional time and again. But instead of getting a sweet load to a sunshine state, he was slogging his way through what looked to be the storm of the century in this part of the province. “I could handle some sunshine right about now,” Mark said.
“Okay, alright,” Bud said. “You get this load to Winnipeg and I’ll see what I can do to get you an extended tour of the west coast. Maybe a day or two off in Southern California.”
“You’re just teasing me right now,” Mark said as he turned up the temperature of the air blowing against the inside of his windshield to take care of a bit of built-up ice.
“No, I mean it. I’ll take care of you.”
“Thanks,” was all Mark said, knowing that Bud was a man of his word and in a couple of days he’d be worrying whether or not his air-conditioning was working well enough to combat the heat. That would be sweet. And just the thought of warm weather and sunshine was making Hwy. 17 much easier to drive. It was also having an effect on his willingness to help his fellow drivers.
He’d wanted to help those who needed it, and he had helped one driver install his snow chains and pulled another out of the snow. Then he’d stopped to check on two other drivers and neither of them seemed to need or want any help at all.
If he wanted to, he could spend the rest of the day helping people chain up or get out of snowbanks. But he had just over four hours to go before he was into Winnipeg, and after that he’d be headed south. His mind was already turning to warmer weather and the last thing he wanted to do was get out of his truck and get into the cold and wet of a Northern Ontario blizzard.
Up ahead there was another rig that appeared to be struggling to navigate the icy conditions. It was moving forward at a crawl and the drive wheels seemed to spin and skip through the snow. However, just ahead of the struggling rig was a heavy-duty wrecker that had pulled over to help.
Mark pulled wide and drove around the rig and the wrecker.
He’d had enough of helping other people do their job. Fortunately, by now there were plenty of people out on the highway whose job it was to get other people out of the snow and on their way.
Who was Mark to stand in the way of someone trying to make a living?”
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